I’ve never been particularly fond of new year’s resolutions. Whenever I’d bite the bullet, embrace the stereotypes and take advantage of cynical “new year, new you” marketing, it always felt gimmicky and disingenuous to me. I couldn’t help but feel like I was the butt of a collective joke as seasoned gym-goers told me, with a curl to their lip, how there were always swathes of new gym-goers in the new year who stopped going within a couple of weeks.
And this isn’t just about the gym. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had conversations about various new year’s resolutions where it was almost taken for granted that nobody wouldn’t stick to them. It seems to be almost expected for us to not keep to our resolutions — but that doesn’t stop us from going through the motions year after year – acting like we’re trapped in some kind of unhappy marriage with ourselves as we insist that yes, this time, things will be different.
Well I, for one, am fed up with it — so I’m not making a single new year’s resolution this year because, for me, they’re ultimately counterproductive to my wellbeing. As someone diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), my quest for perfection is toxic and pathological. I’m constantly putting immense pressure on myself to meet near-impossible standards with every action, thought and feeling. Living a life like this has nearly broken me on several occasions, so the idea of continuing to set myself resolutions and striving towards a standard or version of myself that I know will be unrealistic to achieve seems ultimately counterproductive. It will only serve to reinforce unhealthy thinking patterns and habits that I am doing all I can to try and break.
But beyond that, I believe we all need to give ourselves a break. Data from YouGov suggests that of those in the UK who made new year’s resolutions in 2020, 74 per cent failed in some way to stick to them — with nearly 1 in 4 people (23 per cent) ending up abandoning their New Year’s resolutions entirely. In fact, a 2021 UK study found that 64% of people abandoned their New Year’s resolutions in the first month. This begs one important question: what’s the point? I understand trying to better ourselves, but what is the point of putting ourselves under this intense pressure every year when evidence shows that keeping to these resolutions isn’t practical or sustainable for most people?
There is a mountain of evidence to suggest that many people are struggling – with the Covid-19 pandemic having fundamentally altered some parts of life as they know it. The Centre for Mental Health, a charity, has suggested that up to 10m people in the UK will need mental health support over the next five years as the impact of the pandemic continues to be felt.
With that in mind, I feel like everyone should be a little kinder to themselves this coming year. I think it’s safe to say that 2021 has been hard enough for everyone, so we shouldn’t concern ourselves with arbitrary external goal — just being who we are is enough.